Centipede and lichens on branch

On one small branch: an ecosystem within itself (click on images to enlarge)

A silver lining of sticking close to home is having more time to notice and appreciate the beautiful little details that are often right in front of one’s nose.

Such was the case when I picked up the alder branch in these photos, which had fallen across one of our trails. I intended to toss it aside, but instead, I looked more closely, and found it interesting enough to carry to our patio table to photograph.

Varied lichens on part of a branch

Each section of the branch was different and equally fascinating.

Leafy and coral-like lichens on a branch (closeup)

All this diversity on a single small branch!

During a walk in the woods on a later day, I noticed something I’d missed for years: the trunks of the alders are dotted with tiny lichens, resembling miniature butter tarts.

Tiny round tree lichens on alder bark (closeup)

These tiny tree lichens are at most only a couple of millimetres across, so I had to go back to the house to fetch my close-up lenses in order to photograph them. The extra exercise was well worth it.

Worldwide, about 20,000 species of lichens have been identified according to Wikipedia (whose article is well worth reading). Each of these lichen species is actually a composite life form – made up of either a photosynthesizing algae or cyanobacteria, living in a mutually beneficial relationship with some species of fungus.

I’m guessing that the huge number of permutations this communal living arrangement allows means there are more species yet to be identified. What a fascinating, diverse planet we live on!

About Laurie MacBride, Eye on Environment

Photographer focused on nature and nautical on the BC coast

6 responses »

  1. Sherry G. says:

    I’m totally in love with these. Some of my very favourites of yours as well. The detail in that second one just gobsmacks me. And the contrasts in shapes and tones within one image. So delicate. Btw we are still enjoying your image on our wall all these years later. Reminds us of a beautiful day! Sending good wishes. We’re doing decently!

    • Great to hear from you, Sherry! I’ve been thinking of you a lot over the last few days – so relieved to hear you’re doing well. We are too, thankfully. Let’s catch up before too long in a proper email and in meantime, thanks for your lovely comment. Be well.

  2. Susan Yates says:

    I think these might be my favourites in a long time Laurie – and I enjoy every one of your photo posts. Lichen are magical to me – plus, a combination of algae and fungi – so cool!

    Thank you for keeping us on track with what is essential,

    May 2021 offer new and interesting possibilities…but maybe less pestilence!

    Susan >

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